During these strange and challenging times, observing the Holy Month of Ramadan may look very different for our Muslim friends and colleagues. A member of the Law School Academic Faculty here at Birmingham shares her thoughts and feelings on how she is coping under the Coronavirus lockdown and provides some support and inspiration for others.
Ramadan Reflections – Part 2
We are approaching the end of the first week of Ramadan. For me, the first week is all about acclimatising myself to my new regime. My days in Ramadan are very different to my days outside of Ramadan. When I was younger, especially when I was working as a solicitor in practice, I was very reluctant to give the impression that my life was any different in Ramadan. Obviously I did not eat or drink throughout the day but I gave the impression that everything else was the same. I played down how different this month was because it made me look strange to my mainly non-Muslim colleagues and I was so keen for them to acknowledge how much I was like them (just with a few minor differences like fasting). In many respects this speaks to how I have lived my life. I would become a somewhat different person depending on the environment that I was in. I know that it is probably the case for most of us that we tailor our behaviour to the company that we are in, but I felt this in a very profound way during Ramadan. As I have gotten older I am not so concerned to please everyone around me. Now I feel more like my authentic self in whatever setting I am in, though the desire to please is still sometimes hard to shake off. Perhaps that’s more about me being a woman than it is about being Muslim.
So how is this month different for me? To start with I switch off my TV and do not switch it back on again for the entire month. I don’t watch any TV programs, films or anything of that nature. This sounds radical but it is a must for me to immerse myself into this month. My day begins at around 3am. I wake up, carry out an ablution and undertake what is called the night prayer because it is prayed in the very last portion of the night. I pray for about half an hour. By the time I finish this prayer other members of my household have woken up and are slowly dragging themselves to the kitchen. Outside my window I often see the houses of my neighbours with their lights on and I sometimes smile to myself imagining similarly dishevelled faces at breakfast tables up and down the country. I always have something to eat; I really have no problem eating any time of the day so eating in the early hours is never difficult for me. We eat and drink right up until the last moment before its time to begin fasting. After which I read my morning prayers and then get back into bed for a short while. I find it very hard to sleep; in fact my sleep pattern is very disturbed throughout this month.
I get up to work slightly later than normal. I work with small bursts of energy but I must admit I spend a lot of the day just tired. Once I finish my work, I read a portion of the Quran every day with the aim of completing the entire Quran in full, at least once, during this month. I pray every obligatory prayer and I add on many additional prayers. I listen to Islamic lectures that are motivating and uplifting and I spend time just reflecting. Around 7pm I start preparing food so that it is ready and laid out on the table for when we open our fast. Ramadan is the one month when every Muslim knows the exact time for sunset. Those last few minutes before opening the fast are spent checking the time repeatedly, making sure the table is set but also in remembering God. We all break our fast together at the exact moment at which sunset begins.
Normally, I would finish eating and then race to get to the mosque. Nowadays, I finish eating and get ready to pray at home. I miss the mosque and my friends, especially the ones that I only ever see at the mosque during Ramadan. But I am finding a sense of contentment in praying at home that I did not think I could create for myself. There is no other month in which I experience hunger in the way that I do during Ramadan, nor the highs of spirituality that this month gives me. As I come to the end of the first week I am pretty much acclimatised to my new regime though it is by no means easy.
If any student would like support during this month then please do contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Rehana Parveen
Birmingham Law School